Readers of a certain age will remember a time when horror films scared the crap out of you by being subtle and intelligent.
Take Night Of The Living Dead, for example, or – particularly relevant here – Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Plot, characters, drama, well-built tension and a score that added depth.
Or in the case of Chainsaw, no score at all. Which is what made it so damn scary.
These days, in a post-Paranormal Activity world, all that has gone to hell.
Without trying to sound too much like an old curmudgeon, the modern trend of just shouting BOO after a quiet moment lacks a certain panache.
Especially when the BOO is telegraphed to the extent you’ve got time to pop out and get a drink before sitting back down and preparing to jump.
Not all modern horrors are like this, of course. Some still manage to have a brain.
Take The Others or The Woman In Black – both went about their business in a quiet, measured way and hit the creepy nail square on the noggin.
Assuming nails have noggins.
Sadly, Annabelle – a prequel AND spin-off to/from The Conjuring (can you be both?) – is happily ensconced in the unsubtle school of horror.
Telling the tale of a couple and their newborn terrorised by a doll, it falls down at the first hurdle by having lead characters so badly drawn you fail to give a toss about the events that befall them.
Clearly the writers figured it didn’t matter as there was a doll at play.
Where that falls down is not only has scary dolls been done before – and better – but the minute the doll finds its way out of the bin and no one bats an eyelid you really do just feel like walking out, going home and watching Ringu again.
And don’t get me started on the whole ‘get the priest in’ thing. Or trying to use Charlie Manson as some kind of reference point.
Then there’s the score.
Now, I’ve nothing against subtle musical points to tell me what could be happening, but when shrill Psycho-esque tones are used every time you just know poor old Joseph Bishara has only watched one film or was given terrible directions.
I know the modern horror genre is proving popular, and Annabelle is packing them in as we head to Halloween, but frankly I’m at a loss as to why when there are so many better alternatives (granted not on the big screen right now, but still…).
And I get why this film was made.
Hollywood is a business. The Conjuring did good business. Thus Annabelle has to exist.
It’s basic film maths.
But something popular doesn’t mean it’s actually any good. Look at McDonalds.
Even if you can forgive it all the shortcomings (yes, all of them), there’s still one massive problem – and that’s just how unoriginal it is.
What we basically have is a patchwork quilt of films that have gone before. The Exorcist, Ringu, Chucky – they’re all in here, and they’ve brought friends.
In a genre known and loved for borrowing from the past, Annabelle seems to be setting a new standard in borrowing from better films.
And I think it’s this bit that has angered me the most.
I get the bad score, I can let the doll being put back on the shelf to one side, I’ll pretend there weren’t two bits that made me laugh…
…but the fact film executives and producers didn’t give enough of a crap to at least water down the obvious references is just simply lazy.